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November 2006

Question of the day: what do all the nice liberal folks who work at America's elite colleges and universities think about their employers' huge, and growing, endowments? An angry op-ed in the LA Times provides some background on the endowments:

Stanford University is sitting on an endowment of $15.2 billion. Harvard's is nearly twice that. In 2004, the endowments of the 10 richest American universities were worth $78 billion . . .

Endowments have grown considerably since then. In fiscal year 2006 alone, the top 25 university endowments grew an average of about 16%. . . .

As part of Stanford's campaign, its graduate business school is seeking a stunning $500 million, half of that for the new campus. (The current one is pretty nice.) The school also wants $30 million for student financial aid.

But if these wealthy universities won't tap their endowments to provide adequate financial aid for law and MBA students, why should alumni and other donors fill the gap? It may make sense to subsidize students who are going into public interest law because of their relatively low earning potential, but it's another thing to make taxpayers (through deductions) subsidize law students who will earn starting salaries of $150,000 a year at big law firms or MBA students who will go to work for Goldman Sachs.

As I've gotten older I've become ever more-impressed with the wisdom of the claim, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is." What do you bet that we find out in five or ten years that modafinil has some horrible side effect we don't know about yet?

Small gems of dopey government policy

James Surowiecki writes about our sugar and ethanol tariffs, small gems of governmental stupidity.

These tariffs are bad economic policy, bad energy policy, and bad foreign policy. Talk about your Domino effect.

And then there's the USDA with its ban of commercial processing of meat without refrigeration.

This is astonishing, because since Neolithic times, people have safely cured and preserved meats without refrigeration. . . . Salt, time and a good dose of fresh air are the only additions needed to produce salsicce, culatello and 24-month-old prosciutto or serrano — foods that Americans smuggle home from Europe in their luggage.

The madness of the selective college application process in 2006: don't join the Ping Pong club.

His SAT score is unbalanced, but his work with pancreatic carcinoma is very impressive, his GPA is strong, and he’s a leader at school. However, he seems to be a serial joiner. A red flag is the Ping-Pong club, given the fact that he has little community service.

Think twice about being Asian:

Her perfect SAT score is truly outstanding but not a free ticket. She is applying to many technical colleges, so she will be competing against a lot of other high-achieving math/science kids (and a lot of other Asian students in particular).

And for God's sake, don't participate in a sport your high school discontinues:

There is one red flag, which is that she stopped gymnastics this year. Apparently, her school dropped the program; this should be footnoted on her résumé so she does not appear to be a quitter.

A big payoff to school choice

Worth reading: a long Sunday NY Times article on the educational achievement gap between lower-income kids and middle-income kids. The author argues that whereas it was once thought that K-12 schools were unable to overcome the significant environmental handicaps some children face, it is now clear that schools can. The answer: the approach of KIPP schools or something close to it. The author concludes that it's no longer a question of whether lower-income kids can succeed, it's only a question of whether we want to spend the money.

There's another conclusion implicit in the article. The KIPP approach would never have been tried by regular public schools. It was developed primarily because of laws enabling charter schools. Just as school choice advocates predicted, experimentation and parental choice paid off. Big time.

This is an extremely important result, an outcome that seems to be lost in the welter of academic studies trying to determine whether charter schools are, on average, as good as regular public schools.

Three fine political pieces.

Lileks on John Edwards and l'affaire Wal-Mart:

But that's not the interesting part of the story. Nor is the fact that the person who made the call was a volunteer — you mean Edwards doesn't pay his staffers a living wage with full medical/dental and a $200 deductible for eyeglasses? Must have been a hangup in the paperwork. No, the telling part was in Edwards' conference call statement to the union activists. Said the AP story:

"Edwards ... repeated a story about his son Jack disapproving of a classmate buying sneakers at Wal-Mart.

"`If a 6-year-old can figure it out, America can definitely figure this out,' Edwards said."

. . . Young Master Jack needs better manners. It's possible the kid didn't have access to a Bruno Magli outlet store, and his folks shopped at Wal-Mart because it fit their budget — in which case being lectured by the scion of a millionaire trial lawyer is a little like scolding classmates for drinking Tang instead of having Alfred hand-squeeze a dozen Valencias.

Mark Steyn on people scared by "Theocons":

Somewhere along the way, he and Father Neuhaus fell out, Linker drifted left, and decided that his old boss was waging a “stealth campaign” to inflict upon the US “a future in which American politics and culture have been systematically purged of secularism,” and in which the Constitution will be rewritten to bring it into line with “the moral and sexual worldview of the Vatican”. That’s quite the ambition. American religiosity is for the most part strikingly unRoman and Father Neuhaus himself finds the evangelicals a bit of a bore, what with their “forced happiness and joy” and “awful music”. But so far the conspiracy seems to be going swimmingly, with the Supreme Court claiming to have discovered a constitutional right to sodomy and its fellow jurists in Massachusetts having legalized gay marriage. That’s exactly the kind of cunning distraction you’d expect these theocons to come up with to throw the rest of us off the scent.

Josh Manchester on "Why Intellectuals Love Defeat":

In Mr. Carroll's fantasyland, the United States is deserving of defeat, and through some sort of mental gymnastics, that defeat is honorable, because it smacked of hubris to ever have fought in the first place.